This is rather late to be talking about my favorite anime of the past year. But, ’tis better to be late than never. The more careful of my readers already know which 2014 anime excelled all others in action, comedy, and likable characters: Sabagebu! Sabagebu! stands as a five star comedy in a year which featured many good but few great shows. The only other great show which comes to my mind is Shingeki no Bahamut. The show fits in the genres of parody and black comedy. The parody targets 80’s action movies. (The Predator and Mad Max episodes are practically unforgettable.) But, it also poked fun at samurai dramas, as we see in the hunting episode. Amusingly, all the killing and death occurs in the protagonists imaginations–even though certain scenes make one wonder. (Just what happened to all those guys who went down in the helicopter sent to rescue Urara from the ladies’ room? Was there even a helicopter to begin with? Hard to tell sometimes.) The members of the series’ Survival club are all screwballs but inherently likable. Momoka, the blissfully sadistic psychopath of the group, stands out as the most fun to watch and original character of summer 2014.
As you know, I wrote that I would try to marathon the anime which I stalled this season. Having watched straight through episodes 8 – 12 of Aldnoah.Zero, I’ll be able to add my assessment of it to this post–making for a total of five anime. Expect the reviews of the others to be published singly or in pairs. Let me start with the two anime which I’m unable to rate due to their series not being finished.
1) Aldnoah.Zero – no rating
Quel finale! If they had not promised to return for the winter season of 2015, I would have rated it 3 1/2 stars just for crushing the audience’s souls at the end! (And before the last few minutes and finding out that it would get a second half, I thought about giving it 4 1/2 stars!) The action sequences were truly awesome, the animation beautiful, and the plot compelling. The characters were nothing to write home about, but Slaine and Inaho made for great protagonists and even the princess started to grow on me.
As others have noted, certain parts of the anime evinced bad writing. A few of the characters’ decisions made little sense, especially *MAJOR SPOILER* Rayet killing the princess. But, that might play into the theme of envy and hatred being motivators for war. I know Inaho disagreed, saying that there were always other main causes for war. But, anger and hatred make war especially bitter and often increase the destruction of war and the willingness of nations to begin them. Just think of Great Britain and France.
FUTURE POST ALERT: How envy influences Martian politics lines up nicely with a book I’m reading titled Leftism by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. So, the role of envy in modern politics and how envy squelches liberty and diversity will certainly feature as a post in the future.
2) Akame ga Kiru – no rating
Akame ga Kiru got off to a slow start, but I feel that the second half of this season was much more exciting than the first–just as the case was in the manga. I must confess that the manga does several things better; but, the way that the show handled the presentation of Esdeath’s character was rather adroit. (I still prefer the fan translation name, Esdese. That seems more like a girl’s name than that of an allegorical character, doesn’t it?) Some of the fights could have been better, but episodes 6 and 11 more than made up for them. You also need to love Akame ga Kiru‘s style. It exudes a Renaissance setting, but a million anachronisms fill its scenes–especially the modern style of the clothing and the presence of modern firearms.
Despite certain flaws in presentation, the adaptation made the pages of the manga come alive. The voice actors in particular were very well chosen. I look forward to the second season!
FUTURE POST ALERT: Also, despite Esdeath being a unique character, I believe that I have discovered the base for her character. Be sure to look out for my post on which character appears to have been the inspiration for Esdeath!
3) Rail Wars! – ★★★
The likability of the characters save this show from being rated 2 1/2 stars. In some respects, especially the tsundere, Aoi Sakurai, many of the characters fall into tried and true character types. Yet, each character feels unique, e.g. the hoplophile ways of Aoi or Naoto’s obsession with trains. As a matter of fact, even though Naoto feels like a the weak willed protagonist of a harem anime, he shows guts when the occasion demands them of him, which was another good point to this show. The character relationships were also done quite well, even if those episodes which focused on this facet of the show tended to be rather fanservicey.
Though the series can’t be called action-packed, episodes 10 and 11 stand out for the excellence of the fights, and who can forget the train ride from hell in the seventh and eighth episodes? On the other hand, the final episode annoyed me quite a bit: in a 12 episode series, who needs an episode dedicated to saying good-bye to the characters? At least, it had more to do with trains than many of the prior episodes.
In case you were wondering, yes, I would certainly watch this again!
4) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – ★★★★
A well-deserved four stars for this comedy! I loved how closely the manga covered the process and struggles of writing good manga. Like Rail Wars!, it boasts a great host of characters who are oddballs in one fashion or another. As iblessall writes, this show’s ability to tag different people as tsukomi each episode stands as one of its salient features: each person has a turn at playing the straight man as others act ridiculous around them. Though, Sakura seems to hold this position more than most of the other characters. A truly great comedy!
I’ll also admit that I fell for Seo. Watching her blunt honesty and inability to adjust to the feelings of others was a trip!
5) Sabagebu! – ★★★★★
I bet you were not expecting me to grant Sabagebu! five stars and a place on my top fifty list! Yet, it does so many things to make it the most brilliant comedy this year. Unlike Nozaki-kun, this is a black comedy; so, I can’t recommend it to people who want nothing atrocious to happen to characters. One needs to be able to laugh at characters who suffer everything from other characters shamelessly using them to shooting them dead in amusing ways. (Fans of Looney Tunes are sure to love this kind of comedy.) Our lead character, Sonokawa, in particular has no qualms about using others as stepping stones on her road to victory. Fortunately, the violence and death only occurs in the characters’ imaginations–most of it anyway.
But, this show could not have reached five stars had it not been for the excellence of the gun fights and its ability to parody 80’s action movies. (The parodies of Predator and Mad Max made for some of my favorite scenarios.) Episode twelve presents a mind-blowing finale to the show. I must add that Miou was my favorite character; though, Sonokawa’s vengeful deeds are very fun to watch!
Those are my thoughts for these five shows! Stay tuned for more! What was your favorite show this season?
You know, my dear readers, the past two seasons, precisely because they have contained a surfeit of good shows, have convinced me that I’m not the sort of person who can benefit by watching ten or more currently airing shows at once. I’m no Angry Jellyfish. My inspiration for writing about anime peters out as it becomes divided over so many shows. Not only that, by my other interests seem to suffer. (Admittedly, it’s likely not anime’s fault, but it can be the scapegoat here.) And so, I have found myself tempted again and again to quit blogging for a while or to abandon watching current series. Of course, if I quit watching currently airing seasons entirely, then who would read my articles? Moreover, how could I properly enjoy other blogs?
The solution lies in cutting back on the number of currently airing shows I’m watching. And so, I have decided to stall all of them save for the following four–four seemed a good number:
- Akame ga Kiru
- Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
- Rail Wars!
That the last three do not contain serious subject matter at all (unless you include Sabagebu’s hunting and airsoft regulations, anyway) works to their benefit. More serious shows often have more complex plotlines, hence they deserve more focus than viewing them on a weekly basis can provide. This might be less of an issue if I kept an anime commonplace book, where I included quotes, episode commentaries, and glosses. My current method is to wait for inspiration to hit while watching the show and then to write enough drafts until I am satisfied with the final product. But, an anime commonplace book does sound like a good idea, doesn’t it? Does anyone else have such a book or take notes after watching episodes?
Akame ga Kiru still remains on the list for a different reason. Having read fifty-two chapters of the manga, latent topics for articles have been rolling around in my head. (Here’s my favorite one of the articles I’ve written concerning that show.) Also, I would not exactly call Akame ga Kiru a show brimming with complexity; though, various circumstances cast doubt on the efficacy or righteousness of Night Raid’s actions, and Esdese herself is one of the most complex and interesting characters I’ve seen in a long time. (On the other hand, some people consider her stupid and uninteresting, but I want nothing to do with those Philistines.) As a matter of fact, I have an article brewing on the past episode’s fights, which annoyed me greatly.
Of course, this shall not prevent me from reading articles on other shows, even if they contain spoilers. Shocking twists and turns are not where my interest lies in a story. I’m happy to go along with the story’s steady revelation, to enjoy the hero’s journey, and to wait for interesting themes to drop from the author’s genius. The nice thing about this attitude is that stories can hold an almost endless interest for one as the reader constantly uncovers new themes. I apply this even to anime, but perhaps I hold the medium in too high of an esteem?
Just when you start to think that anime shall produce no new kinds of stories, something like Sabagebu! jumps onto the screen. The show is essentially a zany comedy, but episode 7–if this fact has not struck the viewer beforehand–makes it manifest that this show is meant to introduce Japanese teenagers to the gun culture. They have referenced gun laws throughout the show, especially in regard to airsoft guns; but in episode seven, they explained how to obtain a hunting license in remarkable detail–even giving the web address of the Japanese Hunting Association! Rare does an anime with such a conservative worldview appear.
In addition, the show argues that hunters are desperately needed. Wildlife causes millions of yen in damage to farms, which may increase due to animals losing all fear of man. Also, Japan has an aging population of only 100,000 hunters. I will say, of all the shooting sports, hunting is the most difficult and expensive to enter. People’s ignorance of what hunting involves gives them a feeling of trepidation: how many of us grew up in a household where our father guided us through the ins and outs of hunting? But after watching this episode, I felt my own desire to try my hand at hunting rekindle.
Episode seven of Sabagebu! brings up something people often overlook: modern man’s withdrawal from the sport of hunting has effected nature sometimes for the worse. For example, wild boars run rampant in parts of the South and cause much property and crop damage just like one saw in Sabagebu! Also, Sarah Palin is famous for permitting aerial wolf hunts because hunters noticed that it was becoming more difficult to bag moose. (Though this article reveals that bears might have been more to blame than wolves.) Basically, hunting–as long as animals are not overhunted–has beneficial effects for ecosystems and people whose living is tied to the land.
And so, I applaud Sabagebu!’s efforts to introduce people to the joys of firearms. I have not watched a show which felt this conservative since Blassreiter, and that was a religious conservatism.
My first day of vacation starts tomorrow. I put pilgrimage in the title because Montreal includes part of this vacation, and I cannot imagine that we shall visit that fascinating city without stopping by St. Joseph’s Oratory. This oratory was made famous by the miracles produced there and its association with St. Andre Bessette, who might have called himself St. Joseph’s doorkeeper. He was famous for thousands of miraculous cures, which he attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph.
Since it is late, and I do not want to spend too much time writing (I wake at 3 AM on the morrow–four hours from now!), I decided to briefly list some highlights of my anime hobby and spiritual life. I hope you find some of them interesting.
- Watched Girls und Panzer: This is the Real Anzio Battle. I greatly enjoyed it. It felt like a longer TV episode but still had a great tank battle. The following is my favorite quote from the OVA:
- Akame ga Kiru stands as a faithful adaptation of the manga. Things will really pick up once Esdese appears. (I prefer the fan naming system and will stubbornly stick to that until the official naming system becomes more universal.) The great thing about Akame ga Kiru is that it essentially turns shonen on its head: we have the same kinds of happy-go-lucky and quirky characters, but they’re thrown into a really corrupt, dark, and bloody world. This is why so many people like myself enjoy the show.
- The first three episodes of Aldnoah.Zero really took the cake in terms of the setting and action. I hope that the quality of the characters catches up soon.
- I’m somehow still finding the motivation to fit in an episode of El Cazador de la Bruja here and there. It’s a rather mediocre show, but the characters are enjoyable enough that I find myself continually drawn back to it. It will probably take me as much time as I took for Bodacious Space Pirates for me to complete.
- Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is one of the best comedies this season. The oddball characters are splendidly amusing to watch, and I like the fact that the hero is a shoujo manga artist, which makes many of the episodes’ plots revolve around him finding material for his comics.
- Gintama is one of those shows which I can put down for a while and then pick up again. The quest to capture the aliens who were running amok turning people’s bodies and body parts into screwdrivers didn’t grab me, but the arch where Shinpachi gains a pen pal was more hilarious. This show goes everywhere from toilet humor to maudlin to boring to hilarious to epic. One just needs to wait for the best stories.
- Many bloggers loved the first season of Hamatora, and I’m enjoying the show thus far. Episode four, where the desire to own a gun was portrayed as rooted to evil desires, irked me to no end. Cannot people get that some people love tools? Especially men? Guns are tools and a lot of fun to shoot. People enjoy shooting at paper targets, cans, bottles, abandoned houses, cardboard boxes, etc. Wishing to have a gun by itself in no way means a person is inclined to violence. Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.
- For some reason, I’m really enjoying Hanamayata. I suppose my identification with Hana (she’s also from NJ) goes a long way, but somehow I find this slice of life comedy still a lot of fun. I have a an article in the works for it.
- Did you know that Mushibugyo has an anime adaptation? I didn’t, and this decently animated adaptation is a lot of fun to watch. Perfect for a lover of samurai shows.
- I’ve kind of stalled Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water. At this point, Nadia, Jean, and Marie have met back up with Senora Grandis and company, which means the action should improve. Man, the Island arc was exhausting!
- I don’t exactly know how, but a friend of mine finagled me into watching Nisemonogatari. I couldn’t even finish episode one of Nisemonogatari the first time around, despite being a fan of Bakemonogatari. But, I find myself at episode four and wanting to know more. (By the way, Nisemonogatari essentially decided to put Holo in its story via Shinobu.)
- Many bloggers like despising Rail Wars! But, I’m enjoying how the characters deal with the obstacles each episode. It reminds me a lot of You’re Under Arrest, and even if it doesn’t hold a candle to season one of You’re Under Arrest, it’s certainly better than season two thus far.
- Sabagebu! stands as one of my favorite shows this season. This is pure comedy gold. The action can get rather nuts; but if you liked Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, or Pani Poni Dash, I can practically guarantee you’ll love this show.
- Concerning ARGEVOLLEN, the show is nothing special, but I’m enjoying it, and there always exists the chance that it will get better. Basically, if I drop anything this season, it will be this show.
- Tokyo ESP‘s not bad. It’s doing everything well so far, and it feels a little similar to Samurai Flamenco‘s first half so far in that we have ordinary people who suddenly conceive that they have a duty to repress the darker elements of society. However, it still has a long way to go in order to surpass Ga-Rei Zero, in which series’ world Tokyo ESP exists. And I love how Leonidas has a cameo role. xD
- Somehow, I haven’t been able to get into Zankyou no Terror. I loved how they referenced the Sphinx and the fact that there are two riddles according to mythology. (Actually, I’m pretty sure “What walks on two legs, then four, then three?” was an invention of later writers. Classical authors loved to mess around with mythology and add their own improvements on the canonical version.) Yet, somehow, the story doesn’t grab me. Like Sky Crawlers, it’s probably too intellectual for my tastes.
That sums it up for my anime watching. I still owe you guys some manga reviews, so expect that around St. Edith Stein’s feastday (Aug. 9th). Speaking of saints, I find St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea a constant source of inspiration. There are almost four hundred pages of commentary on Matthew before I can move to the Gospel of Mark, but St. Thomas Aquinas’ ability to draw so many relevant Church Fathers on each passage of Scripture is nothing short of amazing. Also, I’m reading George MacDonald’s The Seaside Parish. George MacDonald is a genius of the spiritual life and every page contains something quotable. Why don’t people read him anymore!!? I’ll be right alongside C. S. Lewis in thanking George MacDonald for his works when I get to paradise.
Until August 9th, you’ll be seeing no more articles unless I am so lucky as to find a wi-fi hotspot. But, I should be able to respond to commentary.